May 3rd, 2014

Before you reach happily for the butter and the steak…

…let me just say that this article is as bad or worse than the science it purports to debunk.

I could write either a book on this topic or a short post. Since it’s Saturday, you get the short post. But here are my main points in response to Nina Teicholz’s case against the anti-animal-fat crowd:

(1) It is almost impossible to design a really good and definitive study of diets and what they do and don’t do, healthwise. There are too many variables impossible or difficult to control for, and people’s reports are unreliable as well.

(2) So you can find a study or studies illustrating just about anything you want, and others can find fault with those studies and they’d be right.

(3) You can’t pick and choose just a few; you have to look at the entire spectrum of studies on a topic (and that takes not just a book, but a very very long book, and much of it will be garbage in/garbage out anyway).

(4) It’s well-known even in the medical world, and many books have been written on the subject, that a simple cholesterol/heart disease connection is suspect, especially for women and the elderly.

(5) It’s not just animal fat vs. low animal fat, it’s what sort of diet replaces the animal fat if you reduce it: what type of new fat, what type of carbohydrate, what quantities, what else you’re eating, what else you’re doing, etc.

(6) Different ethnic populations may have different propensities to have trouble with different foods.

(7) There are mitigating factors: for example, a lot of red meat could be counteracted by a lot of red wine in some diets.

(8) Heart disease is hardly the only thing that gets us. Just to take one example, it’s possible that animal fat isn’t so much implicated in heart disease but raises cancer risk significantly.

In summary, how about the old moderation approach?

21 Responses to “Before you reach happily for the butter and the steak…”

  1. Jack Says:

    I could add here, that meat—especially beef—has grown so expensive lately that the choice is not so muc between moderation and obesity it’s now between moderation and bankruptcy.

  2. neo-neocon Says:


    Well, at least it’s cheaper than cheese. Cheese is worth its weight in gold at this point.

  3. Sam L. Says:

    Moderation? Are you nuts?

    (Couldn’t resist.)

  4. G Joubert Says:

    “how about the old moderation approach?”

    Remembering to focus on the “old” part, the modern diet is way too full of carbs. Especially (but not only) sugar. Far more so than 100 years ago. Sugars need to be flat-out avoided except on rare special occasions, holidays and such.

    As far as cheese goes, it’s great, but very calorically dense (moderation definitely applies).

  5. Don Carlos Says:

    I am not smitten by outrage at Teicholz’s article, and am not clear why she should have ruffled Neo’s feathers, since Neo seems to echo some of her points (e.g. Neo’s #3 and 6.).

    Frankly, I do not see how the Teicholz article debunks anything except Dr. Keys’ bizarre (a Minnesota effect?) lobbying effort. He was one of the great academic physiologists of 20th century American medicine, and the force of his (misguided) argument should be seen in that light.

    Teicholz’s is not “science”. She wrote a brief review article for laity. the same laity that is blown hither and yon by the media. be it Alar or fats or egg yolks or sugar, the same laity that remains medically as ignorant as rocks, pounds away at sugars without understanding polymers or certain sugar’s criticality in maintaining brain function. Even here we have it: “Sugars need to be flat-out avoided except on rare special occasions”. And “cheese is very calorically dense”, though any fat is more kcal dense than any cheese (fat=9 cal/gm, protein and carbs=4 cal/gm).

    With an eye-roll, I’m outta here.

  6. G Joubert Says:

    We get all the sugar we need naturally. We don’t need to look for it to add it. Argue much?

  7. neo-neocon Says:

    Don Carlos:

    If you think this post is an example of my feathers being particularly ruffled, you’ve got it wrong.

    But the small ruffling that did occur isn’t about this article per se so much as about the prevalence of slipshod reporting of studies of diet and health that are all deeply flawed because of inherent problems with such research. Teicholz seems to be putting herself out as debunking research, but her debunking tells us just as little (or even less) than the research does.

  8. Don Carlos Says:


    I don’t get what you would have a debunker do? Write articles for peer-reviewed research journals? Each of the dietary This-Stuff-Is-Bad studies was funded by us Federal taxpayers, employed hundreds, took years, and in the end each study predictably purported to prove association, not causation. That plays right into Leftist population managers’ hands and has been so used, putting various productive sectors of our agroeconomy on the defensive and costing billions, e.g. beef ranchers, egg farmers, WA apple growers. All each got years later was, “Well, maybe not.”

    Being Leftist means never having to say you’re sorry. Being conservative means it’s OK to eat a dozen eggs daily if you want. There actually was a short piece in the New England Journal ~25yrs ago that reported with amazement a codger with normal blood fats who had eaten a dozen eggs daily for, oh, thirty years. Didn’t like eggs either, ’twas just convenient.

    We see a kernel of this thinking in G Joubert above, whose “We get all the sugar we need naturally. We don’t need to look for it to add it” makes it only a very small step to the Regulatory, “Let’s tax the hell out of sugar. They’re getting all they need naturally.” Can’t you hear Michelle or Barack saying that to Pelosi at a private fundraiser?

  9. Don Carlos Says:

    And no, this is not an example of your very ruffled feathers! I have seen that.

  10. neo-neocon Says:

    Don Carlos:

    No, you haven’t 🙂 .

    You have seen slightly ruffled.

    You have seen moderately ruffled.

    You have seen moderately ruffled plus a bit more ruffled.

    But very ruffled I’ve never demonstrated on the blog. That, I save for those nearest and dearest 🙂 .

  11. vanderleun Says:

    I’m ducking……

    Out to get a t-bone, and a baked potato with butter, sour cream, chives, shredded cheddar, and bacon bits.

    I want to believe!

  12. parker Says:

    (5) It’s not just animal fat vs. low animal fat, it’s what sort of diet replaces the animal fat if you reduce it: what type of new fat, what type of carbohydrate, what quantities, what else you’re eating, what else you’re doing, etc.

    It is AGW and/or BDS-PDS that confuses animal far for new fat. Damn them both and send them to a DHS interment camp when the left achieves their Kristallnacht.

  13. Ymarsakar Says:

    Fat isn’t a bad thing. It’s only bad in the post apocalyptic zombie apocalypse that is the Left’s Gaia.

  14. Sorta Blogless Sunday Pinup » Pirate's Cove Says:

    […] neo-neocon wonders about reaching for that steak and butter […]

  15. david7134 Says:

    I have been in medicine for 40 years and specialize in Cardiology. I was asked by the Federal Government to defend several doctors in the VA medical system. Their crime was not prescribing a low cholesterol diet for their patients and thus the patients went on to have a heart attack. Several doctors had already turned down the offer to assist. I took it on as a challenge and the first place I went was the governments studies on cholesterol. I pulled all the original articles from the 50’s and 60’s and was surprised. The articles in no way associate diet with any disease. I then took this to Federal court and won the case. Subsequently I have been interested in diet and have found that the only risk is excessive weight. Otherwise, your diet has no bearing in disease, none. In fact, you could ever argue that restricting cholesterol in bad for health (Hope Trial, Harvard). But, in the end, it is maintenance of a decent weight that is most important. That is because of a condition known as metabolic syndrome. People with this disorder are obese, then develop inflammation in their arteries. This is the real culprit that causes myocardial infarcts and plaque is inflammation in the arteries. This occurs in the muscular layer and moves into the intima and then the blood stream. When this happens, clotting occurs and results in an infarct. That is why aspirin reduces MI’s. Note that statins that were developed for reducing cholesterol and thus reducing MI’s do not work. They only reduce the chance of an MI by 3% per year and this is not associated proportionally to cholesterol. In fact, reducing the cholesterol by 40% has no effect on disease. Statins are thought now to work via a mechanism of reducing inflammation. But then you have the high risk of side effects by statins. Big pharma has done a marvelous job of disguising the side effect profile of these drugs, which is very dangerous. Google, cholesterol myth, to get a better explanation. Be careful as many nuts are on this band wagon as well as concerned cardiologist. Best way to prevent heart attacks, exercise, lean weight, ASA.

  16. neo-neocon Says:


    I agree about the iffiness of much of the evidence about cholesterol, especially for everyone but men under 50 who have already had a heart attack and have high cholesterol.

    But the perils of overweight are highly suspect too, although obesity is bad. Slight overweight seems to be good, however, at least as far as we can tell (and we can’t tell very far).

  17. david7134 Says:

    Men under 50 with an elevated cholesterol have about a 2% increase in the possibility of an MI in 5 years. If they have a low HDL, there risk of an MI is 15 times normal (not percent). Best way to get HDL up, high cholesterol diet.

  18. waitforit Says:

    I’m 52, eat meat, drink beer, am 32 on the BMI slide, and slide I do: I haven’t seen a doktor in 25 years. Dentist, yes. And eye doktor. But not one of yourn fanny pants minded doktors who’l make my life hell by saying what I shoudn’t do or eat; an so I built my life around sumfin difrent and seem alot more healthy an ose at didn’t. Nose I’m appier.

  19. waitforit Says:

    Now sometimes, it don’t seem right, but it is what is. People get rewarded for sloth. Yes. Some people never get ill. Ever. Never had influenza. I thinks it’s due to their immune system. It is strong. Being around a lot of bovine and equine manure; being around toilets that weren’t too fine; being around meat and food that were left out a long time: got a strong immune system. Nothing gets by. But none of that probably would have developed if they wasn’t WORKING. And thank the men and women who provided shots for measles and polio as well as making a great water supply system and waste disposal system. I really grew up in a dream era. The thing I think is making disease is quantum thinking. We’re seeing it; therefore, making it. The idea is we are presently equating with making. For awhile, perhaps, but viewing is not making.

  20. John Tyler Says:

    If you are really interested in the “real” evidence supporting the “establishment” dietary recommendations you must read

    This book should, and probably will , get you angry.

  21. high quality protein Says:

    excellent put up, very informative. I’m wondering why the other experts of this sector
    do not realize this. You should continue your writing.
    I am sure, you’ve a great readers’ base already!

About Me

Previously a lifelong Democrat, born in New York and living in New England, surrounded by liberals on all sides, I've found myself slowly but surely leaving the fold and becoming that dread thing: a neocon.

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